Lieutenant Commander Kyle West is one of the absolute best pilots in the Fleet, and along with his wife Emily, who is also the gunner in his ship, they defend Earth against the invading alien force, the Menarians. Because of his talents, Kyle’s CO is constantly pressuring him to volunteer for duty on the space station Epsilon that orbits the Menar homeworld. Kyle refuses, because there’s no way he will leave his partner and son behind. But when they are killed in an attack, Kyle finally convinces Emily that they need to go to Epsilon.
Commander Andrei Dezhnyov is a gunner in the Elite Squandron. His wife Ogrufina is his pilot, and together the command the Seventh Squadron. Day in and day out, they fight against the Menar on their planet. Their attacks don’t seem to make a dent and the war between the races has been going on for decades. Andrei and Ogrufina know they need to do something drastic to turn the tide of war, but the Fleet brass keep them from carrying out anything extreme. Frustrated, they tow the line, even knowing that something has to give.
When Kyle and Emily are cleared for duty, they join the Seventh Squadron and quickly become a force to be reckoned with. The two pairs of pilots/gunners are the best of the best and together they are an unstoppable force. Outside of their missions, the attraction between Kyle and Andrei simmers and sizzles until they finally act on their desires. But when Andrei and Ogrufina are shot down, Kyle goes against strict orders, lands his fighter, and rescues Andrei. But while on the surface of Menar, Andrei makes a startling discovery. One that shows clearly that everything they believed is not actually true, and the deception goes so deep and is so profound, that it will take a huge act of bravery to bring it to light.
Okay, first a few quick disclaimers. This is not a traditional romance, though there is romance involved, but if you’re a fan of all things sci fi, then this is the book for you. And if you’re a stickler about cheating, as in no way, no how, then you’re going to want to pass this one by. Let me be clear, both men’s wives are aware of their nature and encourage their relationship so I didn’t consider it cheating, but rather open relationships. But if you view it differently, then just be aware that it’s there. Also, and I put this in simply for the case that it might be a trigger for some people, there is a suicide that, while not described in excruciating detail, does happen on page. So I want you to be aware of that if you need to be. Now, on with the review!
This story was fascinating and sucked me right in from the start. There is this horrible alien force wreaking havoc and destroying Earth. The fear, worry, and tension just leaps off the page and settled right into my gut. I was on the edge of my proverbial seat and the world was laid out before me, intricately built and wonderfully described. It’s the not too distant future, and a lot of the world has a familiar feel. But there are so many advancements in technology that there is no doubt we are in a futuristic world. Everything was described so well, I had no trouble putting myself on that space station and in the cockpit of the fighters. And in addition to this amazing world building, we had well-developed characters galore. Not only our two MCs, but the secondary characters as well. Each one was unique and individual, serving their purpose and helping to flesh out the plot and give it a fantastically well-rounded feel. Add to that a perfectly paced narrative, and I literally couldn’t put this book down.
That alone would be enough for me to give this book a glowing review, but I don’t have to stop there. Because Kyle and Andrei make this book even better. These guys are so real, their emotions, actions, and reactions so believable that I wouldn’t have been surprised if they walked out of the book and introduced themselves. Andrei was so stalwart and true, a military man through and through, who loved his wife and his job. There was no doubting where this guy stood. And when the world came crashing down around his ears, the way he react was utterly in keeping with his character. Kyle was the exact same way, with a bit of recklessness thrown in. And yet, though they had similar traits, they were different and unique enough that they were clearly two different men. Not to mention that their chemistry together just leaped off page. From the moment these guys met, you understood exactly how they would work together, and I loved the way Witt portrayed them.
So as you can see, I basically loved this book to pieces. But there is one thing, and I’m not sure if I can consider it a quibble or not. It was just about the halfway point that I figured out the big twist. And at this point, Witt had only thrown in about three, maybe four, clues that really didn’t raise any suspicions at the time, but were perfectly placed so that when you reflected back on it later, it would make sense. But I don’t think I was supposed to figure it out that fast. In fact, I think it wasn’t supposed to come to light until Andrei crash lands. So figuring out it that early kind of took the anticipation away for me, and that ever so slightly diminished the read for me. And yet, at the same time, I couldn’t wait to see more clues stack up and see how it all came together. And I have to admit that I felt a little bit smug at the end when I saw that I had gotten it exactly right. So while I was just a tiny bit disappointed that I knew how it was all going to work out, I also enjoyed seeing how the author brought it all together.
Basically, it comes down to this; if you’re a fan of sci fi, then you need to get this book. And even if you’re not, give this book a try. You won’t be disappointed.